Advice From ICRAVE Strategy and Concept Design Director Elizabeth Von Lehe

We asked Elizabeth to share some common mistakes she sees potential employees make, as well as what recent graduates may be most surprised by when they enter the interior design work force.

About ICRAVE: ICRAVE is an award-winning experience strategy, design and development studio with over 15 years creating impactfully designed spaces and successful brands. They offer clients strategy, interior design and development services, product development, and a full suite of brand identity services.

ICRAVE is comprised of trusted advisors offering decades of experience working with brands of every scale to design emotional and high impact businesses. They bring their insights from projects across industries, their network of relationships with subject matter experts and doers and build a team to work with our clients to see it through until launch.

Q: Do you offer internships? If so, how many?

A: Yes, we are a little bit different, because we offer them all year long. We do them in the summer with a wider group of people, we also have graduate students usually interning with us in the winter. In the summer it’s maybe five people, in the winter it’s maybe one or two.

Q: What specific qualities and experience do you look for in an intern candidate?

A: We like to understand what they’re bringing to the table. The majority of our interns are graduate students or have had more work experience. At the end of the day an intern is a potential employee so we’re looking for people who have had different kinds of hands-on work experience. We like to determine what active work experience they have vs. student experience.

Q: Do you recommend students take the NCIDQ Exam?

A: I definitely do. Being licensed is something that sets you apart and it’s a good way for an employer like me to understand that you have the competence and experience. When you look at a portfolio, you never know how much of what you see was done by them. People being licensed is a valuable touch point for us to make decisions.

Q: What advice would you give recent graduates about to enter the interior design workforce?

A: I would say get as much active experience while you’re still in school that you can. Some of our most impressive new hires were already working for us while they were in school. It displays a level of ability to handle stress. Plus, it gives you a leg up because it allows you to understand the methodologies of the job field you’re entering.

Q: What is a common mistake recent graduates make while applying to your business?

A:Forgetting etiquette – not understanding my time is very limited and valuable. When someone follows-up, it shows they have the discipline to go through those steps. A thank you note is nice. Not a thank you text, a real thank you note.

Q: Can you share a recruiting tip or secret with us?

A: Regardless of the industry you’re going into, people have to deal with people. They need to be good with interaction. I can tell very quickly whether or not someone is going to be a rock star or not based on their handshake. Are they able to look me in the eye and give me a good firm handshake? A good handshake tells me a lot about someone’s ability to connect.

Q: What do you find recent graduates are most surprised by when they enter the workforce?

A: Depending on the school or background they come from, they’re surprised by the pace and rigor the interior design industry runs. It’s a very big change of pace from student life to reality.

Q: What do you think will be the major changes in the interior field in the next five years?

A: Needing cross-disciplinary education. I don’t hire an interior designer who doesn’t understand architectural concepts or doesn’t know graphic design. Most of the new designers we hire, have skills other than those in interior design, for example coding skills.

Q: How would you suggest recent graduates maximize their time with their mentors?

A: I would say understanding your goals and coming prepared. It goes back to the appreciation of time. When you have time with somebody, already having ideas of what you want to discuss. Do some prep work. I have mentors, and before I use the valuable time of someone who is more pressed than I am, I prepare for our time.